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Psicobloc Competition in Park City, Utah - Angela Payne

Psicobloc Competition in Park City, Utah - Angela Payne
Psicobloc Competition in Park City, Utah - Angela Payne
Psicobloc Competition in Park City, Utah - Angela Payne
Psicobloc Competition in Park City, Utah - Angela Payne
August 16, 2013 - 

I’m not always great at the juggling act, but I’m always entertained, if nothing else!  The past month has been full of excitement.  After returning from Alaska, I was home for a short stint, then headed out to Salt Lake for the annual Summer Outdoor Retailer show and the inaugural Psicobloc Competition in Park City. 

I know what to expect for the most part when I attend the trade show each year, but I had no idea what I was getting into with the deep water soloing competition.  Aside from jumping off some cliffs into a lake as a child, I had no experience being high above water.  Plus, although I climbed routes a few days before the comp, I don’t have much endurance.  I went to Park City with no expectations, ready to experience something completely new to me. 


When I saw the wall for the first time, hanging over the edge of the big pool, my stomach definitely dropped.  I arrived too late to practice on the wall the first night, but I did get to watch some people climb in the qualifier round.  Some climbers reached the top and took the 50 foot jump, which looked exhilarating.  I tried to remain calm as I looked on, but I’ll admit I was feeling a little apprehensive about climbing.  

After the typical OR engagements on Thursday, we headed back up to Park City for a practice round on the finals route.  There was some confusion initially about how many women were going to compete in finals, but in the end the organizers made the right decision and allowed the same number of women into finals as they did men (16).  Most everyone has certainly heard about this comp by now, so I’ll spare you the nitty gritty details about the format, etc.  Basically, competitors climbed side by side on identical routes up a 50-foot tall wall over a 12-foot deep pool.  Both failure and success landed competitors in the pool, since down-climbing the scaffolding backside was not encouraged.   

My first practice attempt was intimidating, to say the least.  I tried not to focus on the water below, but I eventually made the mistake of looking down.  I felt pretty good on the route, but as soon as I had to make a committing move, I was off.  The 30-something foot fall was scary….and FUN!!!  I loved it.  I came out of the water smiling, wanting to do it again.  

After one more practice run, we were done for the night.  Finals were the following evening, and I was excited for more.  The brackets were roughly based on our performance during the practice round, and I was up against my good friend Emily Harrington first.  It was really fun to hang out with Emily at a competition again and climb together.  This event was awesome in that it brought together a diverse group of climbers, including many that don’t do competitions on a regular basis. 

I advanced through the first round, but my lack of endurance caused me to get pretty pumped at the 40ish-foot mark.  My opponent, Delaney Miller, climbed super well and ended up finishing the finals route multiple times that night, landing her in second.  I wish I could have reached the top of the wall at least once (because I really wanted to jump!), but at least now I have a goal for next year!  

The beautiful wall, picturesque location of the event, unique style of climbing and stacked roster of competitors drew much attention to the Psicobloc comp.  Tons of people tuned into the live feed, and there was much buzz for days afterwards about how competition climbing may have found its next “thing.”  Now, as the excitement dies down a bit, it will be interesting to see what comes of deep water soloing events. 

As is true with many first time events, there were some hiccups in the planning and organization of the comp.  In the end though, no one got hurt, and that was a huge accomplishment in itself.  Certainly things will run more smoothly if this event happens again, and competitors will now know that they have to pack extra courage, along with their extra shoes and chalk bags.  I’m not ready to say that this is the absolute future, but I can say this much: deep water soloing at the Psicobloc comp was one of the most fun, unique experiences I’ve had in climbing in a while.  It was something different, something I could approach with no expectations, and something entertaining.  I could definitely see myself getting hooked on this form of climbing if I had regular access to it. 

To me, that was the main takeaway from the Psicobloc comp: the competitors all had a blast doing something we don’t do every day.  I’m looking forward to seeing if deep water soloing events keep their momentum.  So, until there is another Psicobloc comp or until I book a trip to Mallorca, I’ll just have to build up my courage and wonder…. 

A big thanks to everyone who worked to make the event happen!


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